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Crime News Uncovered: The McMartin Family Trials

Parents From McMartin Preschool Scandal Discuss Aftermath Of Child Sex Abuse Case

In one of the longest and costliest criminal trials in U.S. history, seven employees from the McMartin Preschool were arrested on more than 300 total charges of child molestation and conspiracy. 

By Aly Vander Hayden

When the McMartin Preschool molestation trials concluded in summer 1990, the defendants’ reputations had been destroyed, and hundreds of former students’ families were left devastated.  

The indicted — school founder Virginia McMartin, her daughter Peggy McMartin Buckey, her grandchildren Peggy Ann Buckey and Raymond “Ray” Buckey, and employees Mary Ann Jackson, Babette Spitler, and Betty Raidor — had faced a combined total 321 charges involving 48 children, and while only Peggy and Ray were ever taken to trial, neither were convicted. 

In 1989, a jury found Peggy and Ray not guilty on 52 counts of child molestation, but remained deadlocked on 12 molestation charges against Ray, and a single count of conspiracy against Ray and Peggy, according to The Associated Press. Ray was retried on molestation charges, but again, the jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared, according to The New York Times. 

Despite the verdict, parents and families of the McMartin students continued to speak out about the abuse they believed had occurred. In conversation with “Uncovered: The McMartin Family Trials,” streaming now on Oxygen, McMartin Preschool parents John and Marymae Cioffi, along with two other parents, who asked not to be identified, reflected on the aftermath of the trial and the effect it had on their children. 

“I think it had to be devastating to the children … They went through all of this, and they told the truth, and nobody believed them,” said John Cioffi. “And these people got off.”  

One parent maintains “something horrible happened” at the preschool, adding, “I know things happened there that were so terrible that it kept my daughter awake at night. It was horrific. I know some kids who’ve had a really terrible time because of what happened. My daughter [is] still in therapy. She’s 37.” 

Another parent revealed that his son later “turned to alcohol,” and that he was “sure there were other children” who began drinking to cope with the fallout of the trial. 

“I’m sorry I sent him to that school,” the parent told “Uncovered.” 

Although it has been nearly 30 years since the McMartin case was dismissed, parents continue to stand by the former students. 

“We believe the children, and to this day, I do not at all discount anything that they said,” said Marymae Cioffi. 

During court proceedings, no corroborating evidence of molestation was discovered or presented, and the defendants maintain their innocence. 

To hear more from the McMartin Preschool parents, watch “Uncovered: The McMartin Family Trials” on Oxygen.